It comes as no secret that indoor cycling is an incredible way to burn fat and boost cardiovascular strength. It’s also easy to stick with it and make a weekly or even daily part of your workout routine. However, balance is key when it comes to staying healthy and getting stronger. That’s where classic gym work comes in.
As a personal trainer, I’ve had many clients come to me after experiencing a common cycling injury. The great news is, it’s easier than you think to rehab and come back stronger. Even if you’re not injured, and your goal is just to take your cycling game to the next level, it’s time to start adding the following gym strength exercises into your weekly routine.
1. Standing single side cable row
Have you ever finished a killer cycling class to notice your back and shoulders are sore? The reason for this common soreness or nagging injury is due to lack of strength in your core and back muscles. Cycling is primarily an anterior chain targeted form of exercise (i.e., your quads, delts, chest muscles), so in order to set yourself up for total success, you need to build strength in the opposite muscles: your back, transverse abdominis, and glutes.
A standing single side cable row allows you to build strength in all of those muscles, starting with your upper back, which is the most common spot to get sore or injured because you’re hunched over the bike. Single side exercises also work your abdominals due to the offset weight, helping you build balance and strength in your hips, which have to work to keep your body facing forward as you row.
Pro tip: Make sure you are standing directly facing the cable, keeping both shoulders and hips parallel and staying as still as possible. Make sure your shoulders are relaxed and lowered away from your ears. The stronger posture you keep during this exercise, the better your posture will remain on the bike, and you’ll even start to feel less fatigued during cycling class as a result.
2. Weighted step ups
One of the most common reasons we get lower-body injuries is due to the fact that our hamstrings aren’t as strong as our quads. We walk in a forward motion all day and up and down stairs, leaving it as no secret the strongest parts of our bodies are on our front side. Evening out our lower body strength with exercises like squats and step ups which focus on the posterior (back) side is the solution. Specifically, loaded single side step ups.
We do a lot of standing out of the seat in a cycling class, so knee injuries are quite common. Building strength in your single side step ups will allow you to properly press yourself into a standing position over the bike by pulling power from your glutes as well as your quads, giving you a leg up on the competition. Pun intended.
Pro tip: It’s important to make sure your entire foot is placed on the step before standing into the position. Squeeze your glutes while simultaneously pressing through your heel to stand. For an added challenge, follow through by bringing your opposite knee to your chest, squeezing your glutes and hips forward. This is an excellent variation for building more core strength.
3. Seated to standing backloaded squat
Sound familiar? This move mimics standing out of the bike seat, except without the help from your upper body. The key to a perfect stand? Using your backside muscles and core. Seated to standing backloaded squats are a great way to build a strong posterior chain from top to bottom. I prefer to start clients out using a straight bar, to help build proper posture and form during the exercise.
From a seated position with the bar across the back of your shoulders, sit tall with your abdominals engaged. Press through your heels to stand, and follow through by squeezing your glutes to bring your hips forward and posture tall.
Pro tip: Keeping your chest tall and shoulder blades pinched will help you build proper posture over the bike. Don’t forget to draw your belly button back to your spine to support your upper body as you stand.
Now let’s get out there, and do some work! Add in these three exercises to your next gym session to see a serious improvement in your cycling mileage and agility on the bike. Four sets of eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise will be your recipe for success, both in and out of the cycling studio.